Hiking Fish Canyon Narrows

fish canyon narrows 13fish canyon narrowsfish canyon narrows 15fish canyon narrows 14Another brief weekend adventure, backpacking in the Fish Canyon Narrows. It’s a trail not too far from Los Angeles that made it great for an overnight trip where we couldn’t get going until later in the day. The trail once lead to a maintained campground that was left to decay after a road was washed out and never repaired.

We left in the mid-afternoon, the heat bearing down on us as we walked through the exposed, dry hills. I was excited because even though I had brought lots of extra water, my backpack was still fairly light, all things considered. We walked the open trail until we reached a paved area between two rock walls. Here the creek had eroded the concrete, forming small, clear ponds of water. As we considered how nature had reclaimed its space, we spotted some snakes at the bottom of the pools (which I believe were garter snakes).

fish canyon narrows 12fish canyon narrows 11poison oak 2Down the path a bit more we came upon the abandoned campground. It is now grown over into a lovely meadow. A few posts and fire pits still remain, as do the toilets, which have been shot up and spray painted as abandoned structures often are. Here is where we started to see signs of the poison oak we were about to find ahead of us.

The next mile or so was a lovely mix of oak trees and tall grasses. Growing up in this dry desert place, I’ve always been more fond of leafy green woods, but I’m starting to appreciate the unique flora of Southern California. We came upon the Pianobox mine, which has since been filled, but some equipment still remains. Then it was time to enter the narrows.

fish canyon narrows 10fish canyon narrows 9fish canyon narrows 8The creek in this section runs between two rock walls and there isn’t a clear path for the rest of the way. It’s a beautiful place, with the flowing water and red rock. We marched along gleefully at first, skipping over the stream on rocks. As we went on, there was less and less of a trail, as sections beside the water had become overgrown, often with giant swaths of poison oak. Still we moved forward, sometimes climbing over large rocks rather than going through the water. Though there wasn’t much incline, we all were quite tired as the mile that remained to our camp dragged on. It was fun but exhausting bushwacking through sections and navigating loose rocks and the ever present poison oak.

fish canyon narrows 7fish canyon narrows 6fish canyon narrows 5It was hard to contain our excitement when we did finally arrive at the small camp. It was only a 5 mile trek but the narrows had really taken it out of us. It was slightly foreboding that some wooden talismans hung from the trees but we were happy to have a place to rest.

We set up camp and cooked dinner. You can see Shawn’s stove and mine next to it on his light weight table. Though he’s got an old school backpack, Shawn is growing to love some of the light weight gear. As the sun started to set, a wave of nausea started to roll over me. I had been having some trouble with the hose on my water reservoir and hadn’t been drinking enough water. In fact, I don’t think I drank any on the whole section through the narrows themselves. I ate a little and tried to drink as much as I could but I just couldn’t shake it or the anxiety that comes with being far from anything and feeling terrible. Even though it was dark, it was still hot when we climbed into our tents. When I was finally able to sleep, I had vivid dreams about rhinoceroses and giant tree monsters. Thankfully by morning I felt mostly better, though I didn’t sleep all that much.

fish canyon narrows 4fish canyon narrows 3The hike out was lovely as we were able to conquer the tough section first. Also, rather than navigate over minefields of poison oak and loose rock we just accepted that our feet were going to get wet. It was sort of nice actually, as most of the trail was still hot and dry.

It was exhilarating to be on a trail where there were no other hikers, on a trail that in some sections was hardly a trail at all, but it was nerve racking at times. I would definitely do this hike again, especially now that I know what I was in for. With an earlier start, clocking in around 10 miles it would make a nice day hike.

hiking blogs i love

Earlier this year I was researching National Parks and came across a map of the National Trails. Though I’d heard of the Appalachian Trail, and more recently had become aware of the Pacific Crest trail, I didn’t realize there was a network of several trails that wound around the country. As I dove into researching their terrains and paths, I found trail journals of hikers who had traversed these paths. Thus began my infatuation with backpacking. I thought I should share some of these great blogs with you, since they really are awesome and so inspiring.

Hiking the Pacific Northwest Trail

This was the blog that really started it for me. The Pacific Northwest trail is a newly designated National trail (only designated in 2009, though it was established back in the 1970’s) and has significantly less thru-hikers than more popular trails like the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest trail. I found Katherine’s blog and gobbled it up all in one night from start to finish. She hiked the trail solo in 2013 in just over two months. I loved reading about her journey and it really opened my eyes to the troubles and joys of backpacking.

Carrot Quinn

I am currently obsessing* over Carrot’s journal of her hike on the PCT. I found her blog right before she started on the trail this year and was excited to travel along with her on her journey. This is her second year in a row hiking on the PCT and her writing is witty, fun and also earnest about the struggles of her expedition. You can go back and read about her hike from last year or even about some of her travels on freight trains. As of this posting she’s nearly 1000 miles into the trail.
*Sincerely obsessing, not just blogger hyperbole.

Myla Hikes

Myla and Jeff are hiking the Continental Divide trail this year after meeting last year on the PCT. They are true ultra light hikers and it’s interesting to read about their gear choices. Mostly I just enjoy following along reading about the different terrain of the CDT.

One Who Cannot

I found Steven’s (aka Twinkle) blog through Carrot Quinn, as they are in a small group of hikers traveling together. He has some great in depth writing about the trail and some lovely photos as well.

Other stuff:
Shawn and I watch a lot of hiking and gear videos and they’re usually pretty terrible, but I really liked this one about the CDT.

Do you have any favorite hiking blogs?

mariposa grove – yosemite

yosemite mariposa grove giant sequoias 16yosemite mariposa grove giant sequoias 17yosemite mariposa grove giant sequoias 18yosemite mariposa grove giant sequoias 14yosemite mariposa grove giant sequoias 13yosemite mariposa grove giant sequoias 12yosemite mariposa grove giant sequoias 8yosemite mariposa grove giant sequoias 6yosemite mariposa grove giant sequoias 7yosemite mariposa grove giant sequoias 9yosemite mariposa grove giant sequoias 4yosemite mariposa grove giant sequoias 2yosemite mariposa grove giant sequoias 11 I had these photos squirreled away from our trip to Yosemite in February. My friend, Erin, has requested more Sequoias so this post is dedicated to her.

Maripsoa Grove is the largest grove of giant Sequoias in Yosemite National Park. We were fortunate enough to visit when the road to the grove was open, but shuttles were not yet running through the woods themselves. We walked the various trails snaking through the trees up to the fallen tunnel tree at the far end of the grove. A tunnel was cut into the base of this tree in 1881 so that tourists could drive horse drawn carriages (then eventually cars) though it. Because of the massive hole in its base, the tree fell in 1969, helping to spark more conservation efforts for the Sequoias.

It’s hard, even in their presence to comprehend the size and age of these massive trees. They have survived thousands of years and will outlive all of us. In theory of course. Numerous giant sequoias were cut down in the late 19th century before they were protected. In some areas, like where we camped last year, you can climb up on the stumps of the long ago felled trees. At times it seems only when they are lost can we comprehend what they were. It would be easy to say that they are now safe, but even with the national park protection, humans have a way of destroying things. In April someone set fire to the Fallen Goliath Tree in King’s Canyon. It’s not known whether it was intentional started, but now only charred pieces of the ancient tree remain. This is just one event of many of incidents of humans continuing to destroy that which should be preserved. It’s too sad to list more.

The hike itself was not terribly strenuous but I found myself fairly depleted after an uphill stretch in the exposed sun. I watched some kids bound ahead of me on the trail and I felt so slow. Though I’m building strength and tolerance, altitude of any sort does not agree with me. I suppose that is what I get for living near sea level my entire life. We stopped and ate sandwiches on the steps of the then closed museum. Nearby was the only snow we saw on the trip, just enough for someone to make a small snow man. We hiked back on a different route, passing the faithful couple, two giant sequoias that have grown into each other as they sometimes do.

In the past few months we’ve tried to do as much hiking and outdoor adventures as we can but I think this year is going to be landmark summer for excursions. As the warm weather rolls in I find myself longing to be outdoors even more, dreaming of walking for miles amidst the trees, along creeks or up mountains (well maybe just some hills). I know this blog will eventually circle back to more creative things but for now it seems like it should have a subtitle of something like “Alix in nature.” Hope you don’t mind.

sequoia backpacking

sequoia backpacking 02giant forest museumsequoia backpacking 03Last weekend we took a little trek up to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks for a little backpacking adventure along with Kyle and our friends Jenn and Scott. It was the first time backpacking for all of us besides Shawn, so it wasn’t anything terribly strenuous, just far enough that we could get away from everyone else and test out our gear. We started out with a hike up to Moro Rock to enjoy the views of the valley and the surrounding mountain ranges. From the top we could even see the place we planned to hike to later. So many wildflowers were in bloom, even growing in the crevices of the rocky ascent.

sequoia backpacking 05snow flowersequoia backpacking 06sequoia backpacking 04We hiked down into Redwood Canyon late in the afternoon. It was like being in a magical wonderland, hiking between massive trees. Even with the physical exertion of climbing with a giant backpack, I loved the whole thing. I love to go on adventures but I have to admit that I have a lot of fears (fear of getting elevation sickness, fears my car getting stuck on a dirt road, fears of getting dehydrated and blacking out, all fears that have happened to me) that sometimes inhibit me from doing what I want to be doing. This trip I was so excited I decided that I could not let any of these things get in the way of my fun. Miraculously they didn’t and all went swimmingly.

sequoia backpacking 08sequoia backpacking 10We found a place to camp just as the sun was setting. As we erected our tents, a sound rang through the trees, louder than anything we had heard throughout the day. It took a long while for us to realize it was an owl and not anything more ominious. It was dark by the time we had set up our tents and got around to eating. I had a leftover burrito that was slightly heated, while the rest of the gang had more exciting camp meals. I realized that it’s best for me to keep my meals simple and plan to do more rehydrated foods on future trips. All our food was stored in bear cannisters overnight and remained untouched in the morning. We did catch a look at a young bear the next day as we were leaving the park.

sequoia backpacking 09sequoia backpacking 11Since it wasn’t too long of a hike, and because it’s the only one we have, we brought our massive tent. It’s much more suited to car camping but wasn’t so terrible to carry. Overall, I wasn’t bothered by the weight of my pack, which was not particularly light. I did have some knee problems that started when I was walking down the stairs at Moro rock, sans backpack. I’m confident though that with some strenght training it won’t continue to be an issue. Kyle had by far the largest and heaviest pack as he was stuck carrying a zero degree sleeping bag, a full tent and the bear cannister for himself, Jenn and Scott to share. I’m aiming to lighten my load in the future but don’t expect that I’ll be an ultralight backpacker in the forseeable future. For breakfast, I had some super delicious oatmeal (no joke, I really like oatmeal) and Shawn made his signature tofu scramble.

sequoia backpacking 12sequoia backpacking 07One of my favorite parts of the whole experience, besides being alone in nature, was feeling totally self sufficient. We had more food than we needed, a filter for water and shelter. I’m sure if something had gone wrong it would be terrifying on some level but I felt more comfortable than I sometimes do on day hikes. I also accepted that I will probably always look pretty dorky as a backpacker but comfort really is more important to me than style. Mostly I can’t wait to go on more backpacking trips!

Good News

Forgiveness_still_01Do you remember at the end of last year I shot a short film? I finished the film in March and now I have some exciting news to share.

Forgiveness has won the award for Best Short Film at the Amsterdam Film Festival. It was such a surprise to find out, particularly since I have never won any kind of award for something I’ve made.

On the heels of that, I found out that Forgiveness will also be playing at the Edinburgh Short Film Festival. I’m thrilled to have the film included in the program. To add another level of excitement, Shawn’s film Ashes of a Cowboy will be playing at the festival as well.

If you happen to be in Edinburgh on June 8th you can see Forgiveness for yourself. Ashes of a Cowboy will be playing on June 14th.

Making films, as with any art, can be a frustrating and isolating endeavor. It feels like such a relief to have some positive news to share about projects. I hope to have more in the future.